A discussion about Copyright

Copyright protects the fruits of one's labor

According to the United States Copyright Office, copyright is protection by United States federal law of original works of authorship such as books, motion pictures, television programs, computer software and of course websites out there on the Internet such as this site and my sister site  Interstate275Florida.com, as well as the other websites that are part of the Edward Ringwald Websites Network.  The statutory authority is embellished in Title 17 of the United States Code.

Why Copyright?

Let's say you worked on a book that took you a long time to write, not to mention collecting the necessary research as needed.  When you go to publish that book that took you a long time to write, somewhere down the road someone else uses your words to publish something and in so doing, someone else passes the words you write as theirs.

Without copyright all of this use would go unchecked and there would be no environment for recognition of one's original fruits of labor.  Imagine for a minute that you wrote a poem, for example.  You write your original poem and you go out there and publish it.  Then, somebody else publishes a collection of poems including yours and passes it off as their original.  That's very unethical!

In the United States and most other countries throughout the world, laws were enacted that protect the original work of authorship - that means your original work - and the encouragement of the original development of the arts in various forms of media.  With copyright law, the original development of the arts is preserved and encouraged for future generations.

Additionally, copyright also gives the original owner the right to copy and distribute the work as the owner pleases.  For example, the distribution of motion pictures is carefully regulated by the owner, which in this case would be the movie studio.  A motion picture is first released in the movie theater for a set period of time, then the motion picture is eventually released to DVD.  This example of controlled distribution maximizes the income potential for the movie studio releasing the motion picture.

So, in short, copyright recognizes one's original work and recognizes the original development of the arts for future generations.

Copyright and the Edward Ringwald websites

When EdwardRingwald.com went online in 2000 and Interstate275Florida.com in 2003 copyright protection began the moment the web sites were published to the Internet server hosting these websites.  Current copyright law provides for protection from the moment of publication; however, registration with the United States Copyright Office is required if in the event legal action has to be taken against anyone misusing the text and/or photographs featured on these websites.

I did not give copyright registration much thought when I put my websites online.  However, in 2005 an incident involving a high school principal at a high school in Spring Hill, Florida (a community about an hour north of Tampa by way of the Suncoast Parkway) was brought to light by articles published in the St. Petersburg Times.  According to these newspaper articles, it was found that the principal of Springstead High School, Susan Duval, was giving a commencement speech to the class of 2005 utilizing words taken from other sources and passing them off as if it were her own.  This caught the ire of the Hernando County School Board which investigated this incident with the end result being that Ms. Duval getting a letter of reprimand and an one day suspension.  This form of copyright infringement is known as plagiarism.

In light of this incident, how would I bring legal action against anyone who misuses my original material from my websites even though I have the copyright notice affixed to my home pages?  It turns out that in order to bring legal action against an infringer the work would have to be registered with the United States Copyright Office.

So, it was decided that the registration of the copyright for my two principal web sites would be sought and on Tuesday, 6 September 2005, the copyright registration for my web sites was accomplished in person at the United States Copyright Office in Washington, D.C. during a trip I made to the Baltimore/Washington area over the Labor Day weekend.  Preparation of the application was an arduous task but in the end the result would be registration of my online works with the United States Government.

What does Copyright Registration mean for the Edward Ringwald Websites Network?

Copyright registration means a lot of things.  Most importantly, it recognizes an original form of work created by an author.

Copyright registration entitles me to protect my online work from infringers that want to take material from my web sites and pass it off as their own.  An excellent example I found on the web is Eric Green's Civil Defense Museum website in which there are plenty of civil defense siren photos along with warnings about taking the pictures and using them on eBay; like myself, Eric has every right to protect his siren photos and text from those who think taking photos from someone's website and using them on eBay is a good idea.  It isn't!

Copyright registration entitles me to control how items such as text and photographs are created and published onto the websites.

Most importantly, copyright registration entitles me to bring legal action against an infringer who misuses any text and photographs from my websites.

What are the legal remedies for copyright infringement?

Well, there are laws within Title 17 of the United States Code that deal with copyright infringement and the legal remedies for such infringement.

17 USC 501 deals with copyright infringement in general and the acts that constitute copyright infringement.  The most important highlights of this section are (a) and (b) which relate to my websites for which I have sought registration.

17 USC 502 deals with injunctions.  This means that the copyright owner has the right to seek an injunction against an infringer of a work.

17 USC 503 deals with the impounding and disposition of infringing articles.  This means that the copyright owner has the right to seek an injunction to seize materials from an alleged infringer.

17 USC 504 deals with civil damages.  This means that the copyright owner has the right to seek the recovery of damages, either actual or statutory, from an infringer.

Most importantly, 17 USC 506 deals with criminal penalties for copyright infringement.  In addition to the civil remedies described above, if the infringement was willful and wanton then criminal penalties would be sought against an infringer.  For example, persons who go into movie theaters and record movies using a camcorder for the purpose of unauthorized distribution would fall into this category.

So, what's the bottom line?  Enjoy viewing my websites, but please don't take the pictures and text and use them elsewhere!  This also includes item descriptions on eBay!

NOTE:  While your Webmaster has a degree in Legal Assisting, none of the explanations given above should be construed as legal advice.  Questions regarding copyright law including infringement should be directed to an attorney, preferably one who is experienced in copyright law.

Links to More Information covered here

The United States Copyright Office website

St. Petersburg Times article:  Two Principals, Two Punishments, 3 July 2005

St. Petersburg Times article:  Duval gets reprimand for plagiarizing speeches, 29 June 2005

RespectCopyrights.org:  An informative website by the Motion Picture Association of America that discusses what is copyright and the perils of the misuse of copyrighted material such as movies.  This is a highly recommended read for parents!